Skip to main content

Full text of "For America to Live, Europe Must Die"

See other formats


For America to Live, 
Europe Must Die 

a speech by Russell Means 



The following speech was given by Russell Means in July 
1980, before several thousand people who had assembled from all 
over the world for the Black Hills International Survival Gather- 
ing, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is said to be Russell 
Means 's most famous speech. 

The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is 
that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European 
concept of "legitimate" thinking; what is written has an importance 
that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an 
oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white 
world's ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, 
the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a 
people. 

So what you read here is not what I have written. It is what 
I have said and someone else has written down. I will allow this 
because it seems that the only way to communicate with the white 
world is through the dead, dry leaves of a book. I don't really care 
whether my words reach whites or not. They have already dem- 
onstrated through their history that they cannot hear, cannot see; 
they can only read (of course, there are exceptions, but the excep- 
tions only prove the rule). I'm more concerned with the American 
Indian people, students and others, who have begun to be absorbed 
into the white world through universities and other institutions. 
But even then it's a marginal sort of concern. It's very possible 
to grow into a red face with a white mind; and if that's a person's 
individual choice, so be it, but I have no use for them. This is part 
of the process of cultural genocide being waged by Europeans 
against American Indian peoples' today. My concern is with those 
American Indians who choose to resist this genocide, but may be 
confused as to how to proceed. 



(You notice I use the term American Indian rather than Na- 
tive American or Native indigenous people or Amerindian when 
referring to my people.) There has been some controversy about 
such terms, and frankly, at this point, I find it absurd. Primarily it 
seems that American Indian is being rejected as European in origin 
- which is true. But all the above terms are European in origin; the 
only non-European way is to speak of Lakota - or, more precisely, 
of Oglala, Brule, et. - and of the Dineh, the Miccousukee, and all 
the rest of the several hundred correct tribal names. 

(There is also some confusion about the word Indian, a 
mistaken belief that it refers somehow to the country, India. When 
Columbus washed up on the beach in the Caribbean, he was not 
looking for a country called India. Europeans were calling that 
country Hindustan in 1492. Look it up on the old maps. Columbus 
called the tribal people he met "Indio," from the Italian in dio , 
meaning "in God.") 

It takes a strong effort on the part of each American Indian 
not to become Europeanized. The strength for this effort can only 
come from the traditional ways, the traditional values that our 
elders retain. It must come from the hoop, the four directions, the 
relations: it cannot come from the pages of a book or a thousand 
books. No European can ever teach a Lakota to be Lakota, a Hopi 
to be Hopi. A master's degree in "Indian Studies" or in "education" 
or in anything else cannot make a person into a human being or 
provide knowledge into the traditional ways. It can only make you 
into a mental European, an outsider. 

I should be clear about something here, because there 
seems to be some confusion about it. When I speak of Europeans 
or mental Europeans, I'm not allowing for false distinctions. I'm 
not saying that on the one hand there are the by-products of a few 
thousand years of genocidal, reactionary European intellectual de- 
velopment which is bad; and on the other hand there is some new 
revolutionary intellectual development which is good. I'm refer- 
ring here to the so-called theories of Marxism and anarchism and 



"leftism" in general. I don't believe these theories can be separated 
from the rest of the European intellectual tradition. It's really just 
the same old song. 

The process began much earlier. Newton, for example, 
"revolutionized" physics and the so-called natural science by re- 
ducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation. 
Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with 
politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these 
"thinkers" took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and 
converted it into a code, an abstraction. They picked up where 
Christianity ended: they "secularized" Christian religion, as the 
"scholars" like to say - and in doing so they made Europe more 
able and ready to act as an expansionist culture. Each of these 
intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality 
even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality 
from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, 
three. Answer! 

This is what has come to be termed "efficiency" in the Eu- 
ropean mind. Whatever is mechanical is perfect; whatever seems 
to work at the moment - that is, proves the mechanical model to be 
the right one - is considered correct, even when it is clearly un- 
true. This is why "truth" changes so fast in the European mind; the 
answers which result from such a process are only stopgaps, only 
temporary, and must be continuously discarded in favor of new 
stopgaps which support the mechanical models and keep them (the 
models) alive. 

Hegel and Marx were heirs to the thinking of Newton, Des- 
cartes, Locke and Smith. Hegel finished the process of secularizing 
theology - and that is put in his own terms - he secularized the 
religious thinking through which Europe understood the universe. 
Then Marx put Hegel's philosophy in terms of "materialism," 
which is to say that Marx despiritualized Hegel's work altogether. 
Again, this is in Marx' own terms. And this is now seen as the 
future revolutionary potential of Europe. Europeans may see this as 



revolutionary, But American Indians see it simply as still more of 
that same old European conflict between being and gaining . The 
intellectual roots of a new Marxist form of European imperialism 
lie in Marx' - and his followers' - links to the tradition of Newton, 
Hegel, and the others. 

Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. 
Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the 
best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and is to 
give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain. Material 
gain is an indicator of false status among traditional people, while 
it is "proof that the system works" to Europeans. Clearly, there are 
two completely opposing views at issue here, and Marxism is very 
far over to the other side from the American Indian view. But lets 
look at a major implication of this; it is not merely an intellectual 
debate. 

The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the 
universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into 
dehumanizing another person. And who seems most expert at 
dehumanizing other people? And why? Soldiers who have seen a 
lot of combat learn to do this to the enemy before going back into 
combat. Murderers do it before going out to commit murder. Nazi 
SS guards did it to concentration camp inmates. Cops do it. Cor- 
poration leaders do it to the workers they send into uranium mines 
and steel mills. Politicians do it to everyone in sight. And what the 
process has in common for each group doing the dehumanizing is 
that it makes it all right to kill and otherwise destroy other people. 
One of the Christian commandments says, "Thou shalt not kill," 
at least not humans, so the trick is to mentally convert the victims 
into nonhumans. Then you can proclaim violation of your own 
commandment as a virtue. 

In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the men- 
tal process works so that it become virtuous to destroy the planet. 
Terms like progress and development are used as cover words 
here, the way victory and freedom are used to justify butchery in 



the dehumanization process. For example, a real-estate speculator 
may refer to "developing" a parcel of ground by opening a gravel 
quarry; development here means total, permanent destruction, with 
the earth itself removed. But European logic has gained a few tons 
of gravel with which more land can be "developed" through the 
construction of road beds. Ultimately, the whole universe is open - 
in the European view - to this sort of insanity. 

Most important here, perhaps, is the fact that Europeans 
feel no sense of loss in this. After all, their philosophers have 
despiritualized reality, so there is no satisfaction (for them) to be 
gained in simply observing the wonder of a mountain or a lake or 
a people in being . No, satisfaction is measured in terms of gaining 
material. So the mountain becomes gravel, and the lake becomes 
coolant for a factory, and the people are rounded up for processing 
through the indoctrination mills Europeans like to call schools. 

But each new piece of that "progress" ups the ante out in the real 
world. Take fuel for the industrial machine as an example. Little 
more than two centuries ago, nearly everyone used wood -a replen- 
ishable, natural item- as fuel for the very human needs of cook- 
ing and staying warm. Along came the Industrial Revolution and 
coal became the dominant fuel, as production became the social 
imperative for Europe. Pollution began to become a problem in 
the cities, and the earth was ripped open to provide coal whereas 
wood had simply been gathered or harvested at no great expense 
to the environment. Later, oil became the major fuel, as the tech- 
nology of production was perfected through a series of scientific 
"revolutions." Pollution increased dramatically, and nobody yet 
knows what the environmental costs of pumping all that oil out of 
the ground will really be in the long run. Now there's an "energy 
crisis," and uranium is becoming the dominant fuel. 

Capitalists, at least, can be relied upon to develop uranium 
as fuel only at the rate at which they can show a good profit. That's 
their ethic, and maybe that will buy some time. Marxists, on the 
other hand, can be relied upon to develop uranium fuel as rapidly 



as possible simply because it's the most "efficient" production fuel 
available. That's their ethic, and I fail to see where it's preferable. 
Like I said, Marxism is right smack in the middle of the European 
tradition. It's the same old song. 

There's a rule of thumb that can be applied here. You can- 
not judge the real nature of a revolutionary doctrine on the basis 
of the changes it proposed to make within the European power 
structure and society. You can only judge it by the effect it will 
have on non-European peoples. This is because every revolution 
in European history has served to reinforce Europe's tendencies 
and abilities to export destruction to other peoples, other cultures 
and the environment itself. I defy anyone to point out an example 
where this is not true. 

So now we, as American Indian people, are asked to be- 
lieve that a "new" European revolutionary doctrine such as Marx- 
ism will reverse the negative effect of European history on us. 
European power relations are to be adjusted once again, and that's 
supposed to make things better for all of us. But what does this re- 
ally mean? 

Right now, today, we who live on the Pine Ridge Reserva- 
tion are living in what white society has designated a "National 
Sacrifice Area." What this means is that we have a lot of uranium 
deposits here, and white culture (not us) needs this uranium as 
energy production material. The cheapest, most efficient way for 
industry to extract and deal with the processing of this uranium is 
to dump the waste by-products right here at the digging sites. Right 
here where we live. This waste is radioactive and will make the 
entire region uninhabitable forever. This is considered by industry, 
and by the white society that created this industry, to be an "accept- 
able" price to pay for energy resource development. Along the way 
they also plan to drain the water table under this part of South Da- 
kota as part of the industrial process, so the region becomes doubly 
uninhabitable. The same sort of thing is happening. The same sort 
of thing is happening down in the land of the Navajo and Hopi, up 



in the land of the Northern Cheyenne and Crow, and elsewhere. 
Thirty percent of the coal in the West and half of the uranium de- 
posits in the United States have been found to lie under reservation 
land, so there is no way this can be called a minor issue. 

We are resisting being turned into a National Sacrifice 
Area. We are resisting being turned into a national sacrifice people. 
The costs of this industrial process are not acceptable to us. It is 
genocide to dig uranium here and draw the water table - no more, 
no less. 

Now let's suppose that in our resistance to extermination we begin 
to seek allies (we have). Let's suppose further that we were to take 
revolutionary Marxism at its word: that it intends nothing less than 
the complete overthrow of the European capitalist order which has 
presented this threat to our very existence. This would seem to be 
a natural alliance for American Indian people to enter into. After 
all, as the Marxists say, it is the capitalists who set us up to be a 
national sacrifice. This is true as far as it goes. 

But, as I've tried to point out, this very "truth" is deceptive. 
Revolutionary Marxism is committed to even further perpetuation 
and perfection of the very industrial process which is destroying us 
all. It offers only to "redistribute" the results - the money, maybe 
- of this industrialization to a wider section of the population. It 
offers to take wealth from the capitalists and pass it around; but in 
order to do so, Marxism must maintain the industrial system. Once 
again, the power relations with European society will have to be 
altered, but once again the effects upon American Indian peoples 
here and non-Europeans elsewhere will remain the same. This 
much the same as when power was redistributed from the church 
to private business during the so-called bourgeois revolution. Eu- 
ropean society changed a bit, at least superficially, but its conduct 
toward non-Europeans continued as before. You can see what the 
American Revolution of 1776 did for American Indians. It's the 
same old song. 



Revolutionary Marxism, like industrial society in other 
forms, seeks to "rationalize" all people in relation to industry 
- maximum industry, maximum production. It is a materialist 
doctrine that despises the American Indian spiritual tradition, out 
cultures, our lifeways. Marx himself called up "precapitalists" 
and "primitive." Precapitalist simply means that, in his view, we 
would eventually discover capitalism and become capitalists; we 
have always been economically retarded in Marxist terms. The 
only manner in which American Indian people could participate in 
a Marxist revolution would be to join the industrial system, to be- 
come factory workers, or "proletarians," as Marx called them. The 
man was very clear about the fact that his revolution could occur 
only through the struggle of the proletariat, that the existence of a 
massive industrial system is a precondition of a successful Marxist 
society. 

I think there is a problem with language here. Christians, 
capitalists, Marxists. All of them have been revolutionary in their 
own minds, but none of them really means revolution. What they 
really mean is a continuation. They do what they do in order that 
European culture can continue to exist and develop according to its 
needs. 

So, in order for us to really join forces with Marxism, we 
American Indians would have to accept the national sacrifice of 
our homeland; we would have to commit cultural suicide and be- 
come industrialized and Europeanized. 

At this point, I've got to stop and ask myself whether I'm 
being too harsh. Marxism has something of a history. Does this his- 
tory bear out my observations? I look to the process of industrial- 
ization in the Soviet Union since 1920 and I see that these Marxists 
have done what it took the English Industrial Revolution 300 years 
to do; and the Marxists did it in 60 years. I see that the territory of 
the USSR used to contain a number of tribal peoples and they have 
been crushed to make way for the factories. The Soviets refer to 
this as "the National Question," the question of whether the tribal 



peoples had a right to exist as people; and they decided the tribal 
peoples were an acceptable sacrifice to industrial needs. I look to 
China and I see the same thing. I look to Vietnam and I see Marx- 
ists imposing an industrial order and rooting out the indigenous 
tribal mountain people. 

I hear a leading Soviet scientist saying that when the 
uranium is exhausted, then alternatives will be found. I see the 
Vietnamese taking over a nuclear power plant abandoned by the 
U.S. military. Have they dismantled and destroyed it? No, they are 
using it. I see China exploding nuclear bombs, developing nuclear 
reactors, and preparing a space program in order to colonize and 
exploit the planets the same as the Europeans colonized and ex- 
ploited this hemisphere. It's the same old song, but maybe with a 
faster tempo this time. 

The statement of the Soviet scientists is very interesting. 
Does he know what this alternative energy source will be? No, 
he simply has faith. Science will find a way. I hear revolutionary 
Marxists saying that the destruction of the environment, pollution, 
and radiation will be controlled. And I see them act on their words. 
Do they know how these things will be controlled? No, they sim- 
ply have faith. Science will find a way. Industrialization is fine and 
necessary. How do they know this? Faith. Science will find a way. 
Faith of this sort has always been known in Europe as religion. Sci- 
ence has become the new European religion for both capitalists and 
Marxists; they are truly inseparable; they are part and parcel of the 
same culture. So, in both theory and practice, Marxism demands 
that non-European peoples give up their values, their traditions, 
their cultural experience altogether. We will all be industrialized 
science addicts in a Marxist society. 

I do not believe that capitalism itself is really responsible 
for the situation in which American Indians have been declared 
a national sacrifice. No, it is the European tradition; European 
culture itself is responsible. Marxism is just the latest continuation 
of this tradition, not a solution to it. To ally with Marxism is to ally 



with the very same forces that declare us an acceptable cost. 
There is another way. There is the traditional Lakota way and 
the ways of the other American Indian peoples. It is the way that 
knows that humans do not have the right to degrade Mother Earth, 
that there are forces beyond anything the European mind has 
conceived, that humans must be in harmony with all relations or 
the relations will eventually eliminate the disharmony. A lopsided 
emphasis on humans by humans - the European's arrogance of 
acting as though they were beyond the nature of all related things - 
can only result in a total disharmony and a readjustment which cuts 
arrogant humans down to size, gives them a taste of that reality 
beyond their grasp or control and restores the harmony. There is 
no need for a revolutionary theory to bring this about; it's beyond 
human control. The nature peoples of this planet know this and so 
they do not theorize about it. Theory is an abstract; our knowledge 
is real. 

Distilled to it's basic terms, European faith - including the 
new faith in science - equals a belief that man is God. Europe has 
always sought a Messiah, whether that be the man Jesus Christ or 
the man Karl Marx or the man Albert Einstein. American Indians 
know this to be truly absurd. Humans are the weakest of all crea- 
tures, so weak that other creatures are willing to give up their flesh 
that we may live. Humans are able to survive only though the exer- 
cise of rationality since they lack the abilities of other creatures to 
gain food through the use of fang and claw. 

But rationality is a curse since it can cause human beings to 
forget the natural order of things in ways other creatures do not. A 
wolf never forgets his or her place in the natural order. American 
Indians can. Europeans almost always do. We pray our thanks to 
the deer, our relations, for allowing us their flesh to eat; Europeans 
simply take the flesh for granted and consider the deer inferior. Af- 
ter all, Europeans consider themselves godlike in their rationalism 
and science. God is the Supreme Being; all else must be inferior. 
All European tradition, Marxism included, has conspired to defy 
the natural order of things. Mother Earth has been abused, the 



powers have been abused, and this cannot go on forever. No theory 
can alter that simple fact. Mother Earth will retaliate, the whole en- 
vironment will retaliate, and the abusers will be eliminated. Things 
will come full circle, back to where they started. That's revolution. 
And that's a prophecy of my people, of the Hopi people and of 
other correct peoples. 

American Indians have been trying to explain this to Euro- 
peans for centuries. But, as I said earlier, Europeans have proven 
themselves unable to hear. The natural order will win out, and the 
offenders will die out, the way deer die when they offend the har- 
mony by over-populating a given region. It's only a matter of time 
until what Europeans call "a major catastrophe of global propor- 
tions" will occur. It is the role of American Indian peoples, the role 
of all natural beings, to survive. A part of our survival is to resist. 
We resist not to overthrow a government or to take political power, 
but because it is natural to resist extermination, to survive. We 
don't want power over white institutions; we want white institu- 
tions to disappear. That's revolution. 

American Indians are still in touch with these realities - 
the prophecies, the traditions of our ancestors. We learn from the 
elders, from nature, from the powers. And when the catastrophe 
is over, we American Indian people will survive; harmony will be 
reestablished. That's revolution. 

At this point, perhaps I should be very clear about another 
matter, one which should already be clear as a result of what I've 
said. But confusion breeds easily these days, so I want to hammer 
home this point. When I use the term European , I'm not referring 
to a skin color or a particular genetic structure. What I'm referring 
to is a mind-set, a worldview that is a product of the development 
of European culture. Peoples are not genetically encoded to hold 
this outlook, they are acculturated to hold it. The same is true for 
American Indians or for the members of any other culture. 



It is possible for an American Indian to share European 
values, A European worldview. We have a term for these people; 
we call them "apples" - red on the outside (genetics) and white on 
the inside (their values). Other groups have similar terms: Black 
have their "oreos;" Hispanos have "coconuts" and so on. And, as I 
said before, there are exceptions to the white norm: people who are 
white on the outside, but not white inside. I'm not sure what term 
should be applied to them other than "human beings." 

What I'm putting out here is not a racial proposition but a 
cultural proposition. Those who ultimately advocate and defend the 
realities of European culture and its industrialism are my enemies. 
Those who resist it, who struggle against it, are my allies, the allies 
of American Indian people. And I don't give a damn what their 
skin color happens to be. Caucasian is the white term for the white 
race: European is an outlook I oppose. 

The Vietnamese Communists are not exactly what you 
might consider genetic Caucasians, but they are now functioning 
as mental Europeans. The same holds true for the Chinese Com- 
munists, for Japanese capitalists or Bantu Catholics or Peter "Mac- 
Dollar" down at the Navajo reservation or Dickie Wilson up here 
at Pine Ridge. There is no racism involved in this, just an acknowl- 
edgment of the mind and spirit that make up culture. 

In Marxist terms I suppose I'm a "cultural nationalist." I 
work first with my people, the traditional Lakota people, because 
we hold a common worldview and share an immediate struggle. 
Beyond this, I work with other traditional American Indian peo- 
ples, again because of a certain commonality in worldview and 
form of struggle. Beyond that, I work with anyone who has experi- 
ence the colonial oppression of Europe and who resists its cultural 
and industrial totality. Obviously, this includes genetic Caucasians 
who struggle to resist the dominant norms of European culture. 
The Irish and the Basques come immediately to mind, but there are 
many others. 



I work primarily with my own people, with my own com- 
munity. Other people who hold non-European perspectives should 
do the same. I believe in the slogan, "Trust your brother's vision," 
although I'd like to add sisters in the bargain. I trust the community 
and the culturally based vision of all the races that naturally resist 
industrialization and human extinction. Clearly, individual whites 
can share in this, given only that they have reached the awareness 
that continuation of the industrial imperatives of Europe is not a 
vision, but species suicide. White is one of the sacred colors of the 
Lakota people - red, yellow, white and black. The four directions. 
The four seasons. The four period of life and aging. The four races 
of humanity. Mix red, yellow, white and black together and you 
get brown, the color of the fifth race. This is the natural order of 
things. It therefore seems natural to me to work with all races, each 
with it's own special meaning, identity and message. 

But there is a peculiar behavior among most Caucasians. 
As soon as I become critical of Europe and its impact on other 
cultures, they become defensive. They begin to defend themselves. 
But I am not attacking them personally; I'm attacking Europe. In 
personalizing my observations on Europe they are personalizing 
European culture, identifying themselves with it.By defending 
themselves in this context, they are ultimately defending the death 
culture. This is a confusion which must be overcome, and it must 
be overcome in a hurry. None of us has energy to waste in such 
false struggles. 

Caucasians have a more positive vision to offer humanity 
than European culture. I believe this. But in order to attain this vi- 
sion it is necessary for Caucasians to step outside European culture 
- alongside the rest of humanity - to see Europe for what it is and 
what it does. 

To cling to capitalism and Marxism and all the other "isms" 
is simply to remain within European culture. There is no avoiding 
this basic fact. As a fact, this constitutes a choice. Understand that 
the choice is based on culture, not race. Understand that to choose 



European culture and industrialism is to choose to be my enemy. 
And understand that the choice is yours, not mine. This leads me 
back to address those American Indians who are drifting through 
the universities, the city slums, and other European institutions. 
If you are there to learn to resist the oppressor in accordance with 
your traditional ways, so be it. I don't know how you manage to 
combine the two, but perhaps you will succeed. But retain your 
sense of reality. Beware of coming to believe the white world now 
offers solutions to the problems it confronts us with. Beware, too, 
of allowing the words of native people to be twisted to the advan- 
tage of our enemies. Europe invented the practice of turning words 
around on themselves. You need only look to the treaties between 
American Indian peoples and various European governments to 
know that this is true. Draw your strength from who you are. 

A culture which regularly confuses revolution with continu- 
ation, which confuses science and religion, which confuses revolt 
with resistance, has nothing helpful to teach you and nothing to 
offer you as a way of life. Europeans have long since lost all touch 
with reality, if they ever were in touch with it. Feel sorry for them 
if you need to, but be comfortable with who you are as American 
Indians. 

So, I suppose to conclude this, I would state clearly that 
leading anyone toward Marxism is the last thing on my mind. 
Marxism is as alien to my culture as capitalism and Christianity 
are. In fact, I can say I don't think I'm trying to lead anyone to- 
ward anything. To some extent I tried to be a "leader," in the sense 
that white media like to use that term, when the American Indian 
Movement was a young organization. This was a result of a confu- 
sion that I no longer have. You cannot be everything to everyone. 
I do not propose to be used in such a fashion by my enemies. I am 
not a leader. I am an Oglala Lakota patriot. This is all I want and 
all I need to be. And I am very comfortable with who I am. 



"Revolutionary Marxism is committed to even further perpetuation and 
perfection of the very industrial process which is destroying us all. It 
offers only to "redistribute" the results - the money maybe - of this 
industrialization to a wider section of the population. It offers to take 
wealth from the capitalists and pass it around; but in order to do so, 
Marxism must maintain the industrial system. Once again, the power 
relations with European society will have to be altered, but once again 
the effects upon American Indian peoples here and non-Europeans 
elsewhere will remain the same." 



not yr cister press//notyrcisterpress.tumblr.com